Alex Murdaugh, 54, the once powerful scion of a South Carolina legal dynasty, is on trial for the slayings of his wife and son.
Prosecutors say Alex gunned down 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and their troubled 22-year-old son, Paul, on June 7, 2021.
The Murdaughs, a prominent Democratic family, wielded enormous judicial and political power for nearly a century.
But the family’s dominance began to wane after Paul was criminally charged for a deadly 2019 boat wreck that triggered a series of lawsuits and threatened to expose his father’s financial schemes.
The accident set in motion a spiral of destruction that has stained the family’s legacy.
January 2006 — Randolph Murdaugh III steps down as prosecutor
His departure from office marked the end of the Democratic family’s 87-year reign as the top prosecutor overseeing five counties.
The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office is the chief prosecuting agency for Colleton, Hampton, Allendale, Beaufort and Jasper counties.
Randolph remained an employee in the solicitor’s office, and Alex joined him as a volunteer prosecutor while remaining a partner at the once prestigious personal injury law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick.
It was founded in 1910 by Randolph Murdaugh – the first member of the family to be elected solicitor in 1920.
The firm had to change its name to the Parker Law Group after Alex’s legal and criminal entanglements destroyed the Murdaugh name.
Alex’s brother, Randolph “Randy” Murdaugh IV, remains a partner.
July 8, 2015 — Death of Stephen Smith
Stephen Smith, a former high school classmate of Alex’s eldest son, Buster Murdaugh, was found dead in the middle of a country road in Hampton, South Carolina. The 19-year-old’s car was three miles away and out of gas.
An autopsy concluded that Smith died from blunt force trauma caused by a hit-and-run — but his mother, Sandy Smith, believes he was murdered.
Highway Patrol investigators disagreed with the autopsy’s determination and pursued several leads — including rumors that Buster was having a secret affair with Smith, and the Murdaugh family may have been behind the killing. But the case remains unsolved.
SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) announced in 2021 a fresh probe into Smith’s mysterious demise based on evidence gathered during the investigation into Maggie and Paul’s murders.
The agency did not elaborate on the nature of the evidence that led to their decision to reopen the case.
Feb. 26, 2018 — Death of the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper
The family’s longtime nanny and housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, died after falling down a set of stairs at the Moselle home.
Nearly 10 months later, her family filed a wrongful death claim at the urging of Alex. An attorney representing Satterfield’s sons later learned that insurance policies had paid out more than $4 million, which Alex and his cronies had allegedly pocketed.
In October 2021, Alex was arrested at a Florida drug rehab center and charged with embezzling millions from her sons. He has remained in jail since.
He agreed to pay back the stolen $4.3 million in a confession of judgment. SLED later announced an investigation into Satterfield’s death and plans to exhume her body.
Feb. 24, 2019 — Deadly boat crash
A turning point for the Murdaugh family came in February 2019 when Paul, then 19, drunkenly crashed his father’s boat into the Archer’s Creek Bridge in Beaufort, killing Mallory Beach, 19, and injuring four other friends.
Paul had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.
Before the collision, his friends said he had morphed into his drunk alter ego “Timmy,” becoming belligerent, stripping off his clothes and slapping his girlfriend.
Beach’s estate and other passengers filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Alex, Buster and the convenience store chain that sold Paul, then underage, alcohol using his brother’s ID.
Two months later, Paul was indicted on one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence and causing great bodily harm.
He was murdered before the case went to trial.
June 7, 2021 — The double murder
Alex, hysterical and sobbing, called 911 shortly after 10 p.m. to report that he found Paul and Maggie shot to death near the dog kennels on the family’s sprawling 1,700 acres hunting estate in Islandton.
“I need the police and an ambulance immediately,” he told the dispatcher. “My wife and child have been shot badly.” The first round struck Paul’s chest, the second entered his left shoulder, traveling into his neck and brain, which was severed from his body.
Maggie was lying facedown in the mud about 30 feet away. She had been shot with a rifle at least four times — once execution-style in the back of the head.
The property at 4147 Moselle Road straddles Colleton and Hampton counties and served as Alex’s primary residence.
In Alex’s first statement to a deputy on the scene, he suggested that the boat crash litigation was behind the grisly killings.
“This is a long story. My son was in a boat wreck. He’s been getting threats,” Murdaugh can be heard saying in body camera footage to Sgt. Daniel Greene. “I know that’s what it is.”
SLED immediately took over the investigation.
Sept. 4, 2021 — Alex claims he is ambushed, shot in the head
Alex called 911 and reported that he was shot in the head while changing a tire on Old Salkehatchie Road by a gunman in a passing truck — not far from the Moselle crime scene.
Soon after, Alex issued statements announcing that was leaving the family practice and entering rehab for a longstanding opioid addiction.
Alex was actually pushed out of the law firm the day before the shooting after he was accused of stealing millions from clients’ settlements.
Jim Griffin, Alex’s lawyer, said his client sustained a skull fracture and hemorrhaging from the shooting, but SLED described the wound as “superficial.”
Alex soon admitted that he hired former client Curtis Edward Smith to kill him so his surviving son, Buster, could collect a $10 million life insurance policy.
He and Smith were indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges for the murder-suicide scheme.
In June 2022, he and Smith were hit with new felony charges — including one for the distribution and purchase of the narcotic oxycodone.
The South Carolina Supreme Court yanked Alex’s law license over his “egregious ethical misconduct” – a decision he didn’t contest.
July to December 2022 — Alex charged with his wife and son’s murder and other crimes
On July 14, Alex is indicted on two counts of murder for the slayings of Paul and Maggie. He pleaded not guilty and continues to have the support of his son, Buster, his sister, Lynne Murdaugh Goette, and his brothers, John Marvin and Randy Murdaugh.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is prosecuting the case.
About six months after the murder charges, a state grand jury indicted Alex on nine counts of tax evasion for failing to report $6,954,639 of illegally earned income between 2011 and 2019, for which he owes $486,819 in taxes.
The latest counts are modest additions to the 90 state financial crimes charges he already faced spanning 18 indictments for schemes to defraud victims of $9,789.447.
Jan. 23, 2022 — Alex’s murder trial begins
It took two days to select a jury of eight women and four men for the murder trial in the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina.
Judge Clifton Newman is presiding over what has been called the most anticipated trial in the state’s history.
A portrait of Alex’s late grandfather, 14th Circuit Solicitor Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., was removed from the courtroom for the proceeding.
On Jan. 25, prosecutor Creighton Waters gave his opening statement and revealed publicly for the first time that investigators recovered a blue raincoat coated with gun residue that Alex allegedly stashed at his mother’s home one week after the murders.
Dick Harpootlian, a Democratic state senator and a member of Alex’s defense team, focused on the victims’ shocking injuries.
He argued in his opening statements that it was unthinkable a father who had a wonderful and loving relationship with his son could perpetrate such a heinous crime.
“The gases from that shot literally exploded his head like a watermelon hit by a sledgehammer,” Harpootlian said of Paul’s injuries. “All that was left was the front of his face. Everything else was gone. His brain exploded out of his head, hit the ceiling in the shed and dropped to his feet. Horrendous. Horrible. Butchering.”
If convicted, Alex faces 30 years to life without parole.